Absolutely

On my one book research trip through Wales in the early nineties with my friend-and-book’s-photographer/publisher Luci Shaw, I was entranced by the way people expressed the simple things of the day. How helpful and hospitable they were, how sad if they didn’t get it just right. One B&B innkeeper (whom I imagined to be auditioning for a Fawlty Towers role), was a very tall, lanky man taking all our baggage at once and leading us up 3 narrow flights of stairs at a gallop, only to realize (he apologized, saying, “I’m absolutely shattered”) our room was actually just on the first floor, stumbling over himself to please and yet getting the simplest details wrong, such as —well, the night before, we had pre-ordered our breakfast, particularly asking for coffee, not tea, and when we came into the breakfast room completely alone, we saw on our table a lovely hot breakfast but nothing to eat it with, plus two glasses of tomato juice, which we hadn’t ordered atall, and no coffee in sight. We sat there alone in the room waving our arms for attention, calling out for a little help, while through the little window in the kitchen door we could see him chatting away, and when he was done with a long story he came out with hands in penitent position, asking if everything was tasting perfectly. We politely pointed out we had not ordered tomato juice but coffee, and we could find not a single piece of silverware. Well, the discrepancies overwhelmed him. He stood there crumbling before us, clearing away the offending juice, promising everything, enough silverware to beat the band, delivering nothing for another ten minutes, etc., then standing again with hangdog expression, expecting to be beaten, wringing his hands and saying pitch-perfect every time: “I’m absolutely shattered, I am, I can’t tell you how much. Absolutely shattered.” This morning I woke up wondering how he’s handling this global pandemic, emotionally.
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